Thought

Tender Mercies

Hello friends! Last year went fast and slow. My youngest son broke his leg at the beginning of this year before the world shut down from COVID and it seems like that happened years ago!

Today I’m writing to you from the couch with a heating pad on my mid-section. It’s been an interesting few months for me. I’m hoping to share more music soon, but in the meantime, I thought I’d share a few thoughts.

A few weeks ago, I met with my doctor and we decided that I need a hysterectomy. It’s not a surprise to me- in fact, 8 years ago my doctor was pretty sure I’d need to have a hysterectomy. At that time I prayed and prayed to be able to keep my uterus (what was I thinking! Ha!). For one thing, I was sure that a girl was coming to our family (we had already named her Lily!) and she needed a way to get here! (At the time we didn’t feel like fostering or adoption was part of our path…). Anyway, after 8 years where my health has been…less than desirable, and since we have been at peace for some time with our family being complete, I readily agreed that it was time to do surgery.

In the meantime, I get to figure out what to do with the limited energy I have. It seems that over the last several years I have gotten so good at tuning out my body that I didn’t “hear it” talking to me until it was yelling at me (aka I pretty much could not do ANYTHING else and had to lay down). How else do you do whatcha gotta do? Slowing down didn’t feel like an option with 3 boys to keep up with and a sweetheart to support, as with no end in sight to the health issues, pushing on and doing whatever I could do was my best option.

However, this issue is one that cannot be muscled through…and therefore I have literally had to slow down. A lot. Why is slowing down hard? That is the weirdest thing. Relaxing feels good. Deciding to put up your feet and pamper yourself feels good. Watching a show at the end of the day when you’ve worked hard feels good. Stopping when you have a lot that you want to or feel like you should do? Hard. Gratefully receiving the giving from others instead of feeling guilty and wondering if really you should have just pushed through and done it and spared them the work? Hard. Wondering if there’s anything you did to contribute to the pain that you could do differently…but not knowing what that would be? Hard. So I won’t lie and tell you it’s been all silver linings because it has STRETCHED me big time.

Can I tell you something else though? It has been amazing. Really. And honestly part of the reason I am sharing this is because I NEED to share it. This afternoon I was reading the creation story, and as I read about God seeing what he had done and saying that “It is good” I reflected on the power of dwelling on the good. Seeing the good. Looking for the good. He wasn’t focused on how mangy animals look when they’re about to shed, or how many days were gloomy in England this month…perhaps that is why God is so good at joy- he looks for it and focuses on it…So for anyone that wants to keep reading, I’m going to share the good because I need to dwell on it today.

In early October, I was watching a church conference when I had a very distinct thought that I needed to call up my OBGYN and make a physical appointment with him. “What?” I wondered. Things had actually been quite a bit better with my female parts since getting an endometrial ablation last September- so of all the times in the last 8 years to make an appointment with this doctor, right then felt a little….unusual. And unneeded! But the thought felt so distinct that I was sure it came from the Holy Ghost and I acted on it- I made an appointment. They were totally booked up until December (!) and since I was in no hurry, I made the appointment for December 18th and wondered why I just did that.

That next week I started having thoughts about getting a hysterectomy- which also felt way out of the blue. I told my brother in law the story of a friend of mine walking into my life just when I needed her. It was about 8 years ago when I thought that I may need to get a hysterectomy- and I found out that she had gotten a hysterectomy many years before. She provided the comfort I needed as she talked about what a positive difference it had made in her life. A few days after retelling that experience, I needed to stop by this same friend’s house for something and I felt a nudge to talk to her about a hysterectomy again. I did, and we had a half hour long conversation where I was teary-eyed, and when I left I was pretty sure I needed to get a hysterectomy. But I still had no idea why! This was still early October.

About a week later, in mid- October, I started having strange symptoms- I felt like I was coming down with the flu (achy, yucky, tired) and then the pain and nausea…etc. The symptoms lasted about two weeks, went away for two weeks, and then they pretty much…haven’t gone away since. Some days are better, some are worse, but the symptoms are there. At first I was really focused on getting through the pain/nausea/etc until the next reprieve…until the reprieve didn’t come and I was left with finding a new strategy. I spent some time trying to figure out what caused the pain so I could do something about it. Also futile- the ultrasound showed some internal problems that (go figure) need surgery…so there’s not much I can do about it. And the things I think might help sometimes help and sometimes don’t. Dead end.

It didn’t take me long to put two and two together. This is why I needed to schedule an exam with my doctor, and it’s also why I felt the need to think about getting a hysterectomy. The more I thought about it though, the more grateful I felt- God, my loving Heavenly Father, knew about all this before I did (of course He did!). He made it very clear to me that He was aware of me, and that He is taking care of me and that He loves me- even before I knew why I would need that message. (!!!!) The word that kept occurring to me was “mercy”. He didn’t have to do that! But he knew it would make the road I would need to walk easier if I knew before it happened that He cared. So that’s exactly what He did.

Well friends, His love has felt wonderful. Heavenly Father has been listening to my prayers and has led me through this challenge through promptings from the Holy Ghost. You know what has been even more amazing to me though? Through this whole episode, I have discovered how personal our relationship with Jesus Christ can be. And how nearby He is. HE IS!!! This morning I felt like I wanted to shout it from the rooftops. Jesus Christ is near, he is there to help, to strengthen, to empathize, to help you make more of your life than you ever thought possible. He is there.

I have more to say, but this will have to do for now.

Happy New Year, all!

Love

Laura

Quote

Compensatory Light

This quote has been rattling around in my head all week. Need more light in your life? It’s available!!

Here is my major theme this morning: As evil increases in the world, there is a compensatory spiritual power for the righteous. As the world slides from its spiritual moorings, the Lord prepares the way for those who seek Him, offering them greater assurance, greater confirmation, and greater confidence in the spiritual direction they are traveling. The gift of the Holy Ghost becomes a brighter light in the emerging twilight.

To understand better, think of these comparisons: If the world were growing more physically dark, He could give us enhanced night vision. If loud noises were constantly in our ears, He could give us a filtering mechanism to block the unwanted sound. If the race we were running was extended, He could give us increased lung and muscle capacity. If the exam we were taking was more difficult, He could quicken our minds.

My brothers and sisters, as evil increases in the world, there is a compensatory power, an additional spiritual endowment, a revelatory gift for the righteous. This added blessing of spiritual power does not settle upon us just because we are part of this generation. It is willingly offered to us; it is eagerly put before us. But as with all spiritual gifts, it requires our desiring it, pursuing it, and living worthy of receiving it. “For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift?”

-BYU speech by Elder Neil Anderson

Here is the whole talk if you’d like to review it.

A Compensatory Spiritual Power for the Righteous

Have you found this to be true as the commotion in the world increases? I have! It usually means stepping away from the news, going somewhere by myself, and praying. I have felt Heavenly Father’s desire to communicate with me to a greater degree than I did before 2020. I have had some sweet experiences listening and Hearing Him – not in an audible way, but in my mind and my heart. I have received messages that were personal and unmistakably from Heaven- under the stars.

He is so aware of us and loves us so much!

Have a wonderful day, friend!

Love,

Laura

Music

Sunset: The Story

Norm_02

About two weeks ago, I said goodbye to a wonderful friend.  His name is Norm.  I hadn’t known him very long.  In fact, I got to know him the best in his last few weeks of life.  My heart still fills with joy when I reflect on the time I was blessed to spend with him.  Perhaps you can glimpse the sweetness of that time as I tell you the story; so pull up a chair and get comfy.  Since I wrote out the whole story in my journal, I’ll share with you parts of my journal entry about this experience.

(Written 9/2/18 with an addendum a few days later)

Well I can’t sleep so I might as well write. 🙂  My heart is full to overflowing tonight.

Norm and Cathy have been our friends for some time, as have Mike and Marlene.  Norm has been in and out of the hospital for the past year and has not been in good health the entire time.  On Sunday we found out Norm was in the hospital, and Jon (my sweetheart) suggested that our family go visit him. So we headed up there on a walk.  When we arrived at his room, we saw that his wife, Cathy, was there as well as Marlene and Mike (good friends of Norm and Cathy).  As we were visiting, Mike mentioned off-hand that Norm had written a bunch of poems when he was in his 30’s and 40’s that were quite good.

I am always looking for words to set to music, so I started asking questions about these poems: Did they rhyme?  What were they about? Could I look at a copy?  Have you ever thought about having one of them set to music? Norm was looking a little down when we came in but at the thought of his poem being set to music, he perked right up. “I need to talk to you!” he said.  It was a sweet conversation and I knew I needed to get my hands on those poems. Marlene dropped off her copy (a bound book of his poetry) that evening, not an hour after we left the hospital.

As I looked through the poems, I flagged several that I thought had potential for becoming songs (my favorite being one called “Sunset”).  By the time I had finished looking through the book, I knew this was a project I wanted to take on.  Before getting started, I thought it would be neat to ask Norm about his favorites.  So I ran up to the hospital on Tuesday to chat with him.  Mike, Marlene and Cathy were all there as well, and we spent a good hour going through the book.  Mike read several of the poems to all of us, Norm made some comments about various experiences, we laughed at some of Norm’s light-hearted poetry, and they all pointed out their favorites. I left with Norm’s blessing to choose one and get started on the music. 

Before I left the hospital, I knew that I would write two songs- “Penny in my Pocket”, and “Sunset”.  There was something almost musical about those two poems; they both had a “ring” to them.  I knew logically I would be able to put them to music without too much difficulty, but more than that, I knew this wasn’t all happening by coincidence- the timing and situation was just too perfect and felt so right.  Because He loved Norm, Heavenly Father had sent me to fulfill a long-awaited desire of his heart.  I was honored to be the messenger, and I couldn’t wait to get started.  

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Interestingly enough, when I had left home for the hospital that morning I had the thought that maybe I should write the music in his presence- wouldn’t that be special?  I thought it might be a welcome distraction while he felt so lousy.  I knew there would be some challenges to writing it somewhere other than my home: I would have to get my hands on a portable keyboard, get permission to bring it to the hospital, and I’d have to haul it around.  Still, I felt compelled to pursue the possibility in case that opportunity was presented.  I checked with the nurses and found that they were enthusiastic about the idea of bringing a keyboard into the hospital, so that was no problem.  And I found a keyboard that a friend was not using after making one phonecall.  I picked it up that evening.  

Well, now I had a keyboard, but I didn’t know if Norm was headed home or not.  Each day included many doctor visits and tests to see where he was at medically.  It was challenging to know how persistent to be about the idea of bringing a keyboard up to the hospital.  Knowing it would delight Norm, I tried contacting Cathy on Wednesday to see when would be most convenient.  With so many unknowns it was impossible at that point to set a day and time, but I told Cathy I was available Friday and I would check in with them then.

Friday morning I tried getting a hold of Cathy and couldn’t.  I didn’t want to be pushy, but I kept feeling like that day was the day to do it.  I was antsy as I gathered my music-writing necessities together, and I eventually decided that i’d try to head up to the hospital about 1:00 and just feel out the situation.  I’d have my keyboard in the car so that if the opportunity came, I could take it. Jon’s parents were in town and had decided to take the kids out at 1:00 to go play tennis.  So when they left for the tennis courts, I left for the hospital.  I had a prayer in my heart the whole way, hoping and praying that I’d be sensitive to Heavenly guidance moment by moment since I really wasn’t sure what this would look like.

As I walked through the upstairs hallway, I met Cathy, almost at the elevator.  She was surprised to see me there and after a hug, shared that they had been given the news shortly before that Norm would not be leaving the hospital.  They would keep him there until he passed, which would likely be just a few days. She asked, “Could you bring your keyboard up to his room and help take his mind off of it?!”  Oh what a blessing! 

I stopped in to visit with Norm for a few minutes before grabbing my keyboard while Cathy ran a quick errand.  I remember him saying “I don’t have much time left.”  “I know,” I replied.  “I just saw Cathy in the hallway and she told me the news.  How do you feel about that?”  “Well,” he said, “I guess everyone has to go some time.”  I told him that I wanted to collaborate with him on “Penny in my Pocket” in his hospital room, but first I needed to read him my revised version to get his approval (I had done minor edits so the rhythm of each verse was the same).  He was enthusiastic about the revisions and was thrilled at the idea of me writing in his hospital room.  I ran out to the car and brought the keyboard in to get started.  Norm was (obviously) feeling pretty sick, but it was not hard to see that the idea of me playing music in his room cheered him up some. 

Part of the reason for picking “Penny in my Pocket” was that I had the sense that a sad emotional song wouldn’t be the thing for that day; he needed something light and cheerful to listen to.  I loved the spunk of his own words in that poem, and knew it would provide good atmosphere.  I worked on “Penny in my Pocket” as Cathy answered questions from the nurses and Norm dozed on and off. It was just the three of us and the occasional nurse for much of the afternoon. When Norm would wake up, he would ask where I was at with the music, and I had many chances to share.  The rest of the time I was providing background music: music therapy.

After 4 hours of joyful work, I had pretty much finished the sheet music for “Penny in my Pocket”.  I was amazed how quickly the process had gone.  It felt as if the music had flowed through me instead of coming from me.  I felt that there was no explanation except that I had received Heavenly help, and I was so thankful for it!  

On Saturday, I arrived at the hospital around 1:00. This time there was a lot of family there when I got there, and I was worried my presence would add chaos instead of calm.  Though I wanted to be sensitive to the family’s time, I knew Norm would enjoy hearing the finished product.  I was given the opportunity to sing “Penny in my Pocket” to him (using my music-writing computer program to accompany me) which was a joyful experience.  He was so peaceful as he listened with a little smile on his face. I’ll always remember that.

Then I tucked myself into a corner and started working on song #2 called “Sunset”.  The family gradually trickled out and soon there were only a few of us in the room again.  It was interesting because the tone of “Sunset” is very, very different than “Penny in my Pocket”. This one is tender and emotional.  It’s a “goodbye to life” song- one that could easily be used at a funeral, though it doesn’t specifically say anything about dying.  

Working on this piece was a very different experience.  Once again the music really flowed, but I found it was challenging to know how long to stay.  Norm needed rest, but every time I suggested that I leave, Norm would say something like “No- don’t go anywhere”.  It made me smile.  So I stayed a little longer. I felt that the words provided him with the opportunity to process what would be coming next: “Across the blue horizon where the mountains meet the sky……soon the creeping shadows will engulf the fading light.”  The music was soothing and overwhelmingly beautiful even to me. 

I joked that my Grandfather who passed away in June (an extremely talented composer) must have been sitting on those yoga blocks with me (I sat on yoga blocks to prop me up to be able to reach the keyboard better) because this music I was writing was beyond my capacity; though I said it in a light-hearted way, I really did believe I was getting angelic help…and if Heavenly Father was going to send an angel to help me in this circumstance, I knew it would be him for sure! 

IMG954047 (1)On this day especially, I felt I was performing a sacred service; I was there on a divine errand to fill this man with love and peace from his Father in Heaven as he got ready to transition from this life to the next.  I have always known Heavenly Father would be near in times that are difficult, but watching Him orchestrate a virtual symphony for one man made me recognize in a new way how much my Heavenly Father loves me, and how involved he is in my life, whether I recognize it or not. 

After 2 ½ hours, I had finished much of the song but had not put much down on the sheet music. I felt it was more important to spend the time playing this time, so I did.  I had everything pretty well nailed down- the melody, the chord structure- I just was needing to figure out the ending. I had some ideas, such as perhaps ending with a neat chord progression that really symbolized a new day had begun…but I wasn’t sure.  I left feeling that if I wanted to share this piece with Norm, I needed to be done by Sunday afternoon (about 24 hours away). So I got cooking.  

The experience of discovering the ending to “Sunset” was a special experience I won’t elaborate on here, but I miraculously finished the sheet music by 2:00 Sunday afternoon.  Record time, by any stretch of the imagination, once again. I knew that this song was a gift- the music flowed through me as it had the day before.  Perhaps I had previously underestimated how much of music writing is always a gift.  Perhaps that one shift mentally would allow the music to flow more than ever before as I let go of the control for future music writing endeavors.  My Uncle (David Gates) spoke at my grandfather’s funeral in June and I reflected on his comments as I wrote “Sunset”:

“I had known that my Dad had taught piano, music theory, conducting,
orchestration, and opera, and perhaps a dozen other musically related classes over
the years, but I only learned a few years ago that he had never taught composition,
when that was his greatest singular gift. I asked him about that. He replied that he
never taught it because he didn’t understand it. He did know how it worked. And
so he couldn’t really teach it to anyone else. He viewed it as a fundamentally
spiritual gift and sought to magnify it as much as possible. He viewed it as a kind
of worship. A way to express his gratitude and he constantly acknowledged its
source.”

That evening (Sunday) I went up to the hospital to sing for Norm and Cathy this beautiful gift, “Sunset”.  It was a tender experience.  I saw Norm one other time after that, on Wednesday afternoon.  I had the chance to sing “Sunset” to him again, and share my witness of life beyond death.  My tears flowed freely and I said my last goodbye.  I was honored to sing “Sunset” at Norm’s funeral the next week.  As my accompaniest played the interlude between verses, I smiled as I pictured him sitting nearby, listening.

I hope you enjoy Sunset!

(Recording of “Penny in my Pocket” is coming soon!)